Some of us lie about our age. Others, like me, don’t. But the point is less the lying and more the why. Fellow writer extraordinaire D.A. Wolf weighs in in this guest post….
It isn’t that I don’t worry about it. I do.
It isn’t that I won’t talk about it. I will.
But age isn’t a simple topic, and if you’re a woman, you already know that. At least, you’ll know it sooner or later, and more piercingly than your husband, your brother, your uncle who’s still playing the field, your male boss who continues to climb the corporate ladder, or your 50-something divorced and dating dad.
Aging is unavoidable – if you’re lucky.
Age rage? In this culture? Maybe that’s unavoidable, too.
No, I’m not taking to the highways in a pickup with a shotgun. I’m not planning on packing pistols and going postal over the AARP invites arriving weekly. But I will stand up and proclaim that age discrimination is alive and well – more subtle than we’re willing to admit, and increasingly pervasive.
The worst part?
It feels like we are the “haters.” Women. The ones who make snide remarks about others “showing their age.” The ones who fight tooth and nail at the first sign of laugh lines, gray hair, or traces of soft excess that no amount of dieting will eradicate, where we once carried babies in our bellies.
We aren’t doing ourselves any favors – not at 30, not at 40, not at 50 or any age – viewing the natural process of aging as the enemy.
Aging: It Creeps Up On Us
It isn’t that I don’t feel it – the proverbial march of time in my limbs, in the small of my back, in my shoulders and neck after a long day at the computer. It isn’t that I don’t see it in my face, when morning forces me to look – and I scrutinize – then reach for the moisturizer.
It isn’t that I don’t suffer from a sense of invisibility that comes from walking down a street like a ghost. This is midlife. A transition. But it’s more than that – a parade of days as potentially routine or vibrant as the thousands that have come before, and the thousands that I hope stretch ahead.
For now, I can paint the gray, gloss my lips, line my eyes and I’m done. I can crank up the bounce in my step – especially in hot heels – in order to maintainsome visibility as a woman. But none of this changes the fact of my age. It doesn’t change the perceptionof who I am when someone knows my age, which may have little to do with the reality of who I am as a person, or the life I lead.
All of which is to say – it’s the assumptions and misconceptions that anger me. I find them absurd. I consider them dismissive. We are individuals. We age differently. And we ought to be allowed to approach the aging process accordingly.
And yes, there is a sense of loss – for some of us, it’s loss when we can no longer bear children, loss that we don’t appear or feel as “perky” as we once did, sorrow as we come to accept certain physical limitations or simply additional maintenance. Many women refuse to speak of the sadness, to grieve aspects of their younger selves, as though to do so is to admit some terrible truth.
I say – to hell with that!
Aging is a mixed bag, but it’s also more of the same – the same joy and challenge in meeting life as it is, the same excitement and risk in chasing your dreams, the same sweetness in finding love, mischief, humor, beauty.
Why Women Lie About Their Age
Do I lie about my age?
You bet. When it suits me. But more than that, I do so when it’s a necessity.
A necessity for getting work. A necessity for being seen as “valuable” – regardless of how I see myself. A necessity in the dating world, if you find yourself widowed or divorced.
Do I long for a culture in which age would be viewed as one more interesting fact – of no particular importance except perhaps to your physician?
So tell me. Do you lie about your age?
I bet you would – in the right circumstances. To get a job, and keep it. To have a shot at a few dates, and not be discarded as a viable potential “candidate” for a relationship.
Look Around. Age Estimates?
I’m an older mother, though this is no longer unusual. I gave birth in my mid-late thirties, and strangely, having kids older has kept me young in some ways, and aged me in others.
There are advantages in terms of experience and patience. There are disadvantages – not so much when dealing with babies and toddlers, butmidlife motherhood when kids are fighting? Going through your own hormonal changes as teenagers are bouncing around inside their bodies?
Sound proof the walls!
Thinking back to my childhood, I recall family members of all ages at social gatherings – intermingling and joining in the discussion. When I’ve lived in Europe or visited friends, the parties I attended included 20-somethings through 80-somethings. To me, this seemsnormal.
Consider this. Watching old movies from the 1940s and 1950s, note the generational mix in scenes of night clubs, at concerts, around the dining table. You’ll observe everyone from 20-something through middle age to “older” people (sixties? seventies?) all socializing. In films that offer business settings, while the women generally play a Girl Friday or wife, do note that you see men who are young, and plenty who older.
When’s the last time you socialized with people who were 20 years your senior? Look around your workplace. Is there anyone who appears to be over 50?
As I recall my last in-office contracting gig, there wasn’t a single manager or team member even close to 50 – out of a group of considerable size.
How Many Shades of Gray?
There’s the expense of coloring my hair, which is an irritation. As my skin remains youthful, I paint the gray and pull off whatever age it is that I pull off… in person.
But the fact remains that a man with silver hair is perceived as distinguished, and a woman – with a few notable exceptions (Helen Mirren comes to mind) – is considered to be letting herself go,someone who has given up on dating, and consequently, a woman past a sex life.
Live Fully, Live Well
Am I taking to a bullhorn in my quiet neighborhood?
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel infuriated when I’m dismissed without a second look, when professional experience is ignored in favor of quick, cheap, and disposable, or when men my own age won’t give me a second glance – even before they’ve met me.
But I long for a little common sense. Aging is inevitable, and anti-aging propaganda is just that – propaganda. That doesn’t mean we don’t have choices in products and services, but what about a healthy glow as a mature adult? Doesn’t that sound refreshingly good to some of us?
On that note, I’ll pop my Over-The-Counter calcium with my salad and yogurt. I’ll remind myself to stay focused on the basics – continuing to nourish my mind with constant learning, and my body with healthy food in moderation. I’ll attempt as much sleep as I can manage (tougher for me), and daily walking, which is all about discipline.
Senior Sex and Sensibility?
Jane Austen, move over. Sense and sensibility? Let’s go with sex and sensibility instead.Safe sex, of course.
Do our intimate lives change? Sure. But my personal Rx involves a steady dose of sizzling sex with a man I love – with or without his shades of gray, or my own. And let’s face it – that’s a hell of a cardio. What could be better to soothe the Age Rage?
- Do you unknowingly discriminate against those over a certain age – before you’ve met them?
- Has your impression of what is “old” changed as you’ve grown older?
- When’s the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who is 70+ or 80+ years old?
- Are you worried about getting older, and fighting it tooth and nail?
I'm struck by the idea that it might be undesirable to become invisible as a woman on the street. For me, my advancing age has been a relief in that department. Don't draw the random harassment and unwanted attention that I once did just because I was a nubile woman. I think this might be true even if I were single -- walking down the street is not where I'd hope to meet someone.
Being invisible extends far beyond the physical Anastasia and well into the professional. I've personally written about it numerous times; gender and age discrimination is widespread in the workplace.
Jenifer, I'm delighted you joined the conversation, and you raise wonderful lines of discussion that we should all be thinking about. After all, we will all age - if we're lucky enough to do so. That means the neighbor next door who is 50 will be us, the woman across the street who is 60 will be us, the 80-year olds you mention will be us. Again, if we're fortunate. If you sense anger - you're right. But it's more outrage, and the desire for women (especially) and society (in specific ways) to see the absurdity of age discrimination. At 50-something I'm not "less" than I once was; I'm more - more skilled, more confident, more kind, more knowledgeable, more patient. I'm also more direct and more willing to put my opinions "out there" than I once was. These are benefits of aging that are too often overlooked because we are a society that equates appearance with value, and youth with the better appearance, and for women, a great deal more specifications when it comes to face and body, both. You say "I am a better employee today than I ever was..." I don't doubt that for a second! But nearly every 50+ friend I have today is no longer an employee, including myself. So, to be an employee is an advantage for many reasons. Once you're laid off (whatever the reason), getting back into an employment status over 50 is much, much harder. There's one piece of the outrage. The incredible waste of it. And I have experienced outright age discrimination in the job market (it's much easier to get around than most think), as have all the 50+ women I know - and all are highly skilled. Might I add - this is one of the reasons, I believe, that you see so many "independents" who are 50+ women. If you are single at 50+ and a woman, the demographics are against you when it comes to finding a partner. Options are narrowed significantly in today's "dating market." Another area of discrimination. These are just two examples and neither is insurmountable. But women are 20% more likely to be living in poverty than men as they grow older (for many reasons). Women still earn about 80cents on the dollar compared to men. Add the age bias, and it's understandable that many feel required to lie about age to get work - that's survival, not vanity, to lie about age to get a date, another sort of survival, or to go under the surgeon's knife which I, personally, don't consider an option for me. But that's me. One of the most beautiful, gracious, good women I know just turned 84. I adore the lines on her face, the wisdom of her words, the pleasure of her company. I also understand her moments of sadness for the youth that is gone. She nonetheless is strong, exercises daily, sees family often, and is much loved. What I wish for all of us is to see each other for who we are - not an age, a statistic, an expectation. We have so much to experience - and to give back - to each other. We should be grateful for the privilege of aging, and society should benefit from all that we still have to contribute, living as fully as we can as long as we can. Thank you again for reading, and for the thoughtful comment.
Interesting post, but sensing a lot of anger here. No, I've never lied about my age, I don't think I discriminate against those of other ages (unless they are so young, they seem naive), and I'm not particularly worried about aging. No rage here. It is what it is and I do what I can. But face it. No amount of Botox or surgery can hide the fact that you are "older." It just makes you look desperate and sad to lie or try to hide it. I actually engage with 70 and 80-year-olds every day and I'm better for it. I do admit to hating age discrimination when it comes to jobs, though. Believe me, I am a better employee today than I ever was at 25 or 30. :-)
Liz, Thanks so much for hosting me here. I'm always happy to come by and read, and learn, and reflect.